With 700km to travel from Alpe D’Huez to Paris we booked a hotel halfway and started driving from the end of stage 20.
Arriving in the town of Chalon sur Saone, there seemed to be people everywhere. It was after 10pm and there was some kind of music event happening in the park near the hotel
This also meant there was zero parking. After doing a few laps of the block we found a creative spot on a median strip right opposite an Indian restaurant that was still open. Two birds – one stone.
After keeping a very watchful eye on the car during dinner we moved it to a legitimate spot. The last thing we wanted was a repeat of the episode in Frankfurt where we were towed and fined to the tune of 280 Euro on our way to the first stage.
With 3 hours still to drive in the morning, an earlier start that normal, the final day was already looking a bit dreary. As we approached Paris, then arrived at the start in Sèvres, it was raining. It was light at first but then got progressively heavier.
In other news, we had received permission to take some images inside the Team Sky bus of Chris Froome and the team getting ready.
I arrived at the bus and was invited in. The team hadn’t arrived yet but their new black and yellow kit, as well as helmets and sunglasses, were laid out on each of the rider’s seats.
The team arrived and started unwrapping their kits. I was happy to see they still got excited about them, as they Instagram-ed photos of the backs of the jerseys with a list of all their names along the yellow stripe.
The guys were really relaxed and didn’t seem to mind me snapping away while they went about their business; preparing food from the kitchen, making coffees and figuring out which lenses would be best for the wet conditions.
It was nice to listen to the friendly banter between teammates as they discussed the exciting events of the day.
All too soon it was time for the team meeting and I wished them luck for the final ride into Paris.
Stepping out of the bus and back into reality, the crowd outside were waiting patiently in the now pouring rain to catch a glimpse of their favourite riders.
I rushed over to the start line (avoiding puddles) as the riders were already signing on.
Leaving it later than normal we attempted to get to our access point in front of the race so we could shoot ahead to the Champs Élysées.
Unfortunately we were too late and the road was already closed. Other photographers had told us horror stories of not being let though and we had managed to make it with enough time for the whole 3 weeks. After a late night and an early morning we both struggled to figure out what we should do next.
We could follow behind the riders but we may not be allowed into the reserved parking area near the finish as the entry was off the Champs Élysées that would be closed to traffic as soon as the race came through.
We decided to backtrack, taking a short cut, and thankfully we found our way back onto the course in front of the race. It was the biggest relief!
Driving down the streets of Paris without any traffic was surreal. People were lining the sides of the streets waving and cheering. We then turned to drive straight by the Eiffel Tower; it felt like a fitting end to an epic journey and I could only imagine how it would feel to be in the peloton.
By this stage the weather had really turned with a cold wind now blowing – so we rugged up and I joined the other photographers to try to capture the iconic image of the riders with the Arch de Triomphe as a backdrop.
As the race circled around us everyone moved from one side to the other catching the riders twice every lap. The rain had stopped now and the cobbles had started to dry just in time for the inevitable sprint finish.
The number of photographers trying to get a position to capture the finish line shot must have been at least double that of any other stage. There were two set of steps for the blue and white bibs and only the green vests and photo-motos were allowed on the road.
The steps were not positioned very well and we all had to squeeze to one side to capture the last seconds of the race. The sun burst through the clouds at the last moment as Chris Froome and the team linked arms and crossed the line.
I got down the stairs and onto the road as quickly as I could to try and capture a shot of Chris as he celebrated with his teammates.
The media scrum descended in seconds and I was caught in the middle trying desperately to get my shot with everyone else.
By the time I reached the podium the stairs erected for photographers were completely full. The angle I had wasn’t anything special so I decided to head back toward the buses. As I did Chris came riding past in fresh kit down the now empty road back towards the podium.
At the buses the crowds had already assembled and I waited patiently to get a shot of the Maillot Jaune.
When Chris did arrive he was rushed into the bus and I could hear Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’ being played inside as everyone was singing along. Then, appearing from between the curtains, Richie Porte unleashed a full bottle of champagne all over the crowd with a huge grin.
Covered in champagne, cold and tired it was time to call it a day.
As we walked to the car for the last time, in the fading light on the Champs Élysées, we felt a huge sense of relief and great satisfaction as we reflected on our accomplishments over the last 3 months. We wanted our own bottle of champagne to spray over everyone that has helped keep us going by giving us positive feedback. You have been there, not only to celebrate the triumphs of documenting this amazing spectacle, but to help pick us up in the low times as well, when all I wanted to do was stay in bed. For all the times I fell asleep on my computer writing and editing into the early morning, for every wrong turn we took, finish that we missed and for every time a Gendarme told us it was ‘impossible’ – it was worth it, as these are the events that we then got to share with you, and that helped shape Beardy’s Caravan.
Thanks for following and supporting me – see you again soon. Cheers, Beardy
See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.